The OKC Thunder will open their preseason slate with a highly anticipated matchup tonight! That’s right, you read that: a highly anticipated preseason game! With the most hyped prospect since LeBron James in Victor Wembanyama and the 2nd overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren, each making their debut, this will be fun.
The OKC Thunder open up their preseason against Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs; what to watch for in tonight’s tilt.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Rest) as he comes off an intense Summer of basketball at the World Cup, Vasilije Micic (Ankle) as he suffered a sprain during training camp, and Aleksej Pokusevski (Ankle), who was hurt before Media Day in an offseason workout.
However, it appears for now that Victor Wembanyama is a go for the San Antonio Spurs. Given the preseason nature of this contest, it is still being determined how many minutes he will play, but just seeing him share the floor with Chet Holmgren will be special.
- Matchup: San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder
- Location: Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Date/Time: October 9th, 2023/7 p.m. CST
- Watch: Thunder App, Thunder Website, Bally Sports Oklahoma, NBATV
- Listen: 98.1 The Sports Animal
What to watch for:
Chet Holmgren plays basketball!
The OKC Thunder selected Chet Holmgren with the 2nd overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. At the time, Holmgren was thought to be franchise-altering, a unicorn big man who could be the franchise’s face.
Holmgren represents the lone top-five pick of this rebuild and on this roster (once Victor Oladipo is waived). However, since his selection, the Thunder made a 16-win improvement, earning a surprise spot in the postseason, and saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerge as one of the best players in the world.
While that does lighten the pressure for Holmgren, his debut is still highly anticipated in Oklahoma City. On paper, he plugs every hole the OKC Thunder had on last year’s team. The players are undoubtedly excited for Chet Holmgren‘s debut, and how they talk about the seven-footer has encouraged OKC Thunder fans.
Cason Wallace is making a statement.
Cason Wallace is making a bold statement at training camp. His teammates have spewed glowing reviews of the Kentucky guard. Though with a highly competitive roster, minutes for Mark Daigneault’s squad will take a lot of work to come by.
As everyone raves about Wallace’s defense, Aaron Wiggins was quick to comment on Cason Wallace’s offense. “He is a knockdown shooter,” Wiggins proclaimed while still highlighting Wallace’s defense prowess.
In Preseason, with fewer minutes for regulars, Cason Wallace will have a chance to prove himself. This could be a statement for a few weeks for Wallace to earn more stable minutes for the NBA club.
Ultimately, it remains likely Cason Wallace will earn valuable time with Defensive guru Kameron Woods and the OKC Blue. A strong few weeks leading into the regular season could change things.
Jalen Williams added strength.
Jalen Williams spent this offseason bulking up, so much so the NBA drug-tested the second-year forward. Williams was also part of Team USA Select, where he dominated the Team USA squad before their disappointing finishing in the FIBA World Cup.
With this newfound strength, Jalen Williams has a different gear to hit. Mark Daigneault explained Williams is “going through” defenders now with his extra bulk. That is an encouraging sign since the Santa Clara product already finished at the rim at a 70 percent clip in his rookie season.
The last time we saw Jalen Williams on the floor, he utterly dominated the NBA Summer League to the point it only took a game to shut him down for the rest of the summer out of fairness to the rest of the youngsters there.
Now, with NBA teams having a book on defending Jalen Williams, how does year two go for the wing? Tonight is the first step in that journey.
Josh Giddey’s key improvement
At the FIBA World Cup, Josh Giddey led Australia to a top-ten finish and was a focal point for the Boomers. The most significant area of growth for Giddey came on the offensive end. He attacked the rim hard, getting to the free-throw line five times a night.
That has been a point of emphasis for Josh Giddey, as Mark Daigneault has preached the importance of getting to the charity stripe. To this point in his NBA career, Giddey averages just 1.7 attempts from the line each night. That has to improve in year three.
Why this Preseason is different
Ultimately, I know non-Thunder sickos can turn their nose up at the idea of preseason basketball. What does it matter? It doesn’t count! They exclaim. However, this time around, the preseason is different.
The OKC Thunder have a unique blend of young talent that sees interesting players from top to bottom. Gone are the days of TJ Leaf, Frank Jackson, Justin Jackson, and Vit Krejci. Outside of Olivier Sarr, all 20 players who have reported to the Thunder offer something worth tracking.
Even Sarr, who does not quite have NBA mainstay hopes, is a great change-of-pace option for a limited run. Sarr allows the Thunder to see how these players would do alongside a more traditional big man.
From top to bottom, no combination of players Mark Daigneault can roll out would make you turn away from the screen and throw your hands up in apathy. While the starters may only play limited minutes, this roster is so deep that important pieces will take up all 48 minutes.